As we head towards another festival of Asian Creativity at the Spikes, it’s timely to reflect on my experience as a Cannes juror this year.
Perhaps you’re wondering why it’s taken me so long to write this after Cannes? Well, apart from the fact that I have a business to run, clients to tend to and Campaign asked me to write a little more, there is another reason. On the journey home, I remembered the words of Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus of DDB. He told me that “the high from Cannes lasts about 2 weeks before you’re back to normal.”
So how has my time back in Singapore been?
Following my stint on the Cyber Lions jury, I took a short break in post-Brexit England. Lunch with my mum and my sisters in the pub across the road. As we sat down to eat, I was peppered with questions. “Is Cannes important?”, “Who goes apart from you ad people?”, “Why on earth did you spend a week on the Cote d’Azur in a dark room?”
I tried my best to explain using the Jury’s two Grand Prix winners. While they seemed to appreciate the Pixar-level storytelling of ‘Justino’, they weren’t so sure about ‘The Next Rembrandt’.
But it was their real-time responses that sum up for me how most of the world views what we do. Before the end of each viewing, attention had turned to more important matters; “What was the other half of Britain thinking?” etc.
In the Cyber Lions category, we judged almost 3,000 entries of which around 20% were from this region, if we include Australia and New Zealand. We ended up with a shortlist of 230 pieces. Out of 91 metal, 8 Lions came back to Asia.
Campaign asked for my view on why Asia is under-represented in this category.
Before I get into that, you should know that I live in Singapore. My view is very much based on what I see from this cultural and commercial crossroad.
Is it representative of Asia? Hardly – much like my opinion.
Cannes is an English language-led festival. Asia is a wonderful mix of diverse cultures and peoples, all who speak languages other than English. Stories and concepts are expressed more clearly and in more nuanced fashion by local storytellers.
Do these ideas always travel well? No, but many could give themselves a better chance. One entry from China somehow made it through with a case study that must have been created with Google translate. I kid you not.
The point here IMHO is that there often isn’t the patience to let storytelling develop. “I want it yesterday” is SOP. Everything is urgent. With the result that very little is given the opportunity to be outstanding.
Upon my return to Singapore, I had to give a major presentation. Out of 20 attendees from the client side, about 70% of them were focussed on their smartphones. What were they doing? Checking stock prices? Facebook? Texting each other where to go for lunch? Search me… but their ‘attention’ certainly wasn’t on the presentation that defines their next two years worth of marketing. This is what I’ve begun to call AAD – Asian Attention Deficit.
Looking at the ideas that won, the jurors tried hard to award stuff that was truly outstanding.
We chose work that moved us with the power of a simple idea (Hello for NZ Road Safety). We awarded executions that brought people together and overcame the barriers of clunky tech (the VR of Field Trip to Mars, Giga Selfie). We celebrated those hacks for hope that turned a social platform on its head for a good cause (Manboobs, Check it before it’s removed).
The organisers gave us a book called “The Case for Creativity” by planner James Hurman. It’s a long-term study that links ‘imaginative marketing’ with commercial success. Keith Weed of Unilever and Jim Stengel of P&G both agree there is a link.
Even though the book is one long case study for entering Cannes, clients in the boardrooms all around the region would do well to heed its message. I too believe it is worth investing in the kind of thinking that delivers outstanding ideas first and seeing what happens next.
My view is that collectively, Asia needs to slow down and find the time to deliver. We need to find the time to avert AADD – Asian Attention Deficit Disasters. Because we have all the potential and the promise.
So has my own Cannes high survived the subsequent weeks back home? Am I back to normal yet?
Very much so. But with a clearer idea of what we can and should be doing to help our clients win. And no, it won’t be a crowd-sourced app that rewards those who go out of their way to save refugees.